There’s Nothing Wrong With Mediocrity

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I have a terrible secret: I kind of love mediocre videogames.

I’ve got a backlog filled with modern classics and seminal hits.  Stuff like Shadow of the Colossus and Metal Gear Solid 3 gather dust on my shelf. I’m pretty sure I’ve purchased no less than four different copies of Knights of the Old Republic II.

Yet I continually find myself dumping countless hours into subpar drivel like Splatterhouse or Aliens: Colonial Marines.

There’s no small amount of shame attached to it, the feeling that comes along with brushing off Titanfall in favor of beating F.E.A.R. 2 for the fourth time, or sitting through The Force Unleashed 2 but barely getting past the opening tutorial in Dragon’s Dogma.

It’s not that I have bad taste. I totally recognize how awful some of these games are — the shortcomings of something like Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate as compared to Cave Story for example — but there’s something special about the low end of the gaming spectrum, something comforting about an experience that asks nothing more of me than simply being present.

Silent Hill: Book of Memories isn’t a game that I need to understand or enjoy, there’s absolutely no pressure there to find meaning in its subpar systems or tepid level design. It’s no Ulysses or Lost Highway, I don’t need to plan a post-game coffee date with friends to come to grips with it or establish a position in relation to it. I can simply lose myself in it, take absolutely nothing from it, and go about my business, no better and no worse for the experience.

I’ve been this way as long as I can remember, whether I was tempering Deus Ex with Red Faction 2 or Final Fantasy with Mickey Mousecapades. I’ve spent more time with the latest Thief game than the rest of them combined, and I’m probably going to go play it after I write this. My classic game collection might be filled with Microprose and Blizzard’s greats, but they’re sitting next to stuff like Ultima VIII: Pagan and Star Control III.

That last one aside — seriously, no excuse for that — I look on them with the same kind of nostalgic glee that most people reserve for Ocarina of Time. I love these games, 6.0 reviews be damned.

So I’m stepping out of the critical conversation for a bit and I’m going to spend some time talking about games that have faded into the obscurity of the bargain bin, titles that might not have been as outwardly offensive as Duke Nukem Forever, but which were defined as “good for fans of the genre” or “mediocre, at best.”

And I’m going to start with a doozy.

Tomorrow…Aliens: Colonial Marines.

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